NORTHEAST FLORIDA — A mentor can make a world of difference in the life of a child.
For example: A child having a mentor can be the difference between walking across the stage for graduation or dropping out of school, and success or setback.
But one-third of young people don’t have an adult outside their home they can turn to for advice, according to MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida is trying to change that, but the organization needs your help.
Action News Jax Courtney Cole sat down with Mark and Kanye, members of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida, who shared their positive experience with the program. Here’s what they had to say:
Kanye said he’s not thinking about going pro, but it’s definitely one of his favorite ways to bond with his Big Brother, Mark.
Courtney Cole: “So that means when this [interview] is done, you’re going to school him on the court, that’s what you’re telling me?”
Kanye: “Probably!” (laughs)
Mark: “When I first joined, I thought I was going to be a little too old, you know, to be teamed up with a young man like Kanye. It allows me to be a kid again!”
Kanye: “The connection is pretty cool. It’s good and stuff, and like brings off good energy."
Both self-proclaimed “shy guys” — they told Cole they’ve actually brought out the best in each other over the last three years.
Mark: “His confidence level has expanded proportionately with our relationship and that’s what I’m most proud about."
The 14-year-old faces some family challenges. His grandmother, the person who encouraged him to apply for Big Brothers Big Sisters, is his only caretaker.
Kanye: “My dad, he’s incarcerated and stuff and he gets out next year. And she told me, ‘Oh you need a male in your life right now,' because my dad is not here – and I said, ‘Oh, that’s pretty cool.’"
Mark says he’s not trying to replace Kanye’s dad — just help keep him on the right track.
Mark: “For me, it’s about hopefully inspiring Kanye with confidence to go on to school, to increase his education and to move on to a better place than he’s in right now."
According to the Big Brothers Big Sisters Annual Impact Report from last year, kids in the program are:
- 46% less likely to begin using drugs
- 27% less likely to start using alcohol
- 53% less likely to skip school
This year alone:
- 669 Littles have been matched with their Bigs
- There are still 99 kids just like Kanye waiting for a big brother or big sister just like you!
Becoming a big brother or big sister doesn’t cost anything but your time.
Mark said he thinks the program is a fantastic opportunity to give back. All the program asks for is six to eight hours a month of a volunteer’s time.
Kanye is now focusing on what’s next: “[I’ve] Got an interest in music. It’s pretty cool to me. I like that!”
He is also debating whether to someday pursue a degree at Florida State University or Florida A&M University.
“I still don’t know what I want to do when I get done with school," Kanye said. “Still gotta figure that out.”
A little time spent mentoring can go a long way toward helping a child figure out these major life decisions.
In her own life, Cole has had the pleasure of becoming a Big Sister, too.
Meet her Little Sister, Alyssa!
For more information on how you can become a Big Brother or Big Sister, click here.
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